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The Use of White Space in Graphic Design: Don't Overlook This Important Element

written by: Laura Jean Karr•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 7/21/2010

An often overlooked aspect to graphic design is in the use if white space. Learn more about the use of white space in graphic design, including why this element is important and what happens when it is used the wrong way.

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    What is White Space?

    The end goal for all graphic design projects is to convey a message by giving the eye somewhere to look. The majority of graphic design projects give the eye one main focal point and then fill out the surrounding areas with more visual stimulation and information. The way in which all the information that needs to be conveyed can be included without presenting a crowded jumble of design rests in the use of white space.

    White space in graphic design is simply the strategically placed areas that are absent of text and artwork. White space is just that, a clean white spaced area that gives the eye a visual break and can allow for more information to be added into one graphic design project. The use of white space in graphic design can make or break a project.

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    Over Use of White Space

    Ad2muchWS There is such a thing as using to much white space and when this happens a graphic design project can have the overall look of being unfinished.

    For example, in the image to the left is a graphic design advertisement. This advertisement is for a well known American company whose logo has been blurred out. As you can see in this example, there is way too much white space going on to the point that the idea of the graphic design idea has been lost. Other than the company logo and the small text at the bottom of the page, the viewer really has no information go by. This advertisement was developed for overseas markets and has since been pulled from rotation because it was found unsuccessful at conveying the message it was intended to convey. To get a better view of this example, click on the image.

    It is important when you look at the use of white space in graphic design, that you look at the overall design and what the end goal of the design should be. If the design project calls for more white space than is already being used then add that in but always be leery of adding to much white space to any graphic design project.

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    Not Using Enough White Space

    NoWS In graphic design projects, the same can be said of not using enough white space as it is with using to much. Going to far in either direction can ruin a project. The challenge that comes when dealing with white space is when you have a lot of information to convey in one piece. The goal is to space out the information as much as possible to allow for some form of white space in the design.

    An example of not using enough white space in a project can be seen to the left. In this image, you’ll notice that there is so much in formation and design being used that eye does not know where to focus first when looking at it. As you can see, this web sites main page as no comprehensible graphic design in place. There is way to much information being shown with no white space to break up the onslaught items that are all vying for the eyes attention at the same time.To get a better view, click on the image.

    Presenting too much information at one time as a visual can defeat the purpose of any graphic design project. Create a layout, figure out what the end goal of the project is and then begin to decide what the use of white space will be in the project.

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    White Space Balance

    PBWS As we have seen from the above examples, the use of white space in graphic design is as equally important as the use of text and other graphic elements. Finding the right balance of white space is key to a successful project whether it is a web site, brochure, poster, flier or a business card.

    A good example of the use of white space in graphic design is the image at the left. This shows what the right white space balance can look like. The Pottery Barn web site's main page shows that even with a lot of information to convey that using white space can help direct the eye to certain areas while still offering the eye the ability to view the other information that is available.

    For more information on graphic design start with What is Graphic Design? in the Understanding Graphic Design article series and also check out the Elements of Graphic Design for other pieces of design style beyond white space.

    *images used have been framed by the author using Picnik, the Pottery Barn company and web site is © 2010 Williams Sonoma Inc.